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South African President Ramaphosa And ANC Hold On To Power In National Elections

Electoral workers count ballots in view of party agents after the close of polls at the Parkhurst Primary School in Johannesburg, South Africa this week.
Ben Curtis
Electoral workers count ballots in view of party agents after the close of polls at the Parkhurst Primary School in Johannesburg, South Africa this week.

South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, retained control of parliament in national elections held there this week. But its grip on power eased as the party's overall share of the vote dipped from previous elections amid widespread corruption scandals within the party and a sluggish economy.

While the ANC's victory was never in doubt, the election was seen as a referendum on the party that's been in power since apartheid ended there a generation ago.

Results from the Independent Electoral Commission website on Saturday showed the ANC garnered roughly 58% of the vote. Opposition parties the Democratic Alliance picked up 21%, while the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters garnered 11%.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will make the argument that he has a mandate to unify the country and build a cabinet capable of turning around Africa's most industrialized economy, which is struggling with unemployment hovering at 27% .

On Wednesday, when South Africans went to the polls for dual parliamentary and legislative elections, it was clear from early on that many voters would be remaining on the sidelines.

The BBC reports that approximately 6 million South Africans did not register to vote in the election. Adding:

"Perceptions of honest government are critical if Mr Ramaphosa is to attract the investment South Africa needs.

"This is Africa's largest economy and tackling its inability to provide jobs for the young is the great challenge ahead.

"In a country where the youth have traditionally led rebellions - in 1976 and again in the mid-1980s against apartheid - the most striking statistic in this election is the fall-off in voting by young people."

Ramaphosa rose to power after former South African President Jacob Zuma was forced out last year.

Zuma served nine years as president but was plagued by numerous corruption scandals and party infighting. About a month after he resigned, South Africa's top prosecutor announced the former president would be charged with 16 counts, which included fraud, corruption and racketeering.

The ANC has been in power since 1994, when global icon Nelson Mandela was sworn in as both South Africa's first black president and the first democratically elected leader.

As NPR reported earlier in the week, the ANC has a storied past as a "liberation movement" that oversaw extensive reforms in the nation. As of late, the party's reputation has been tarnished by years of "rampant corruption, influence-peddling scandals and accusations it failed to deliver on a promise to end in equality for black south Africans."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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